This Ain’t California: German Ostalgie in the Context of Nostalgic Cinema

Nostalgic cinema is a multifaceted category that involves films of various genres like costume drama or heritage film and such concepts as pastiche or remake. What unites this wide variety under one definition is not only the usage of nostalgia in the narrative of a film, but also cinematic techniques which allow to construct nostalgic representations.

A remarkable flourishing of nostalgic cinema in Germany after the Fall of the Wall, so called ostalgie films, was to a great extent one of the ways to reflect on the past with the help of filmmaking, to expose a wide range of incipient problematic issues and reveal an important transformation within the German society. As a result, German ostalgie cinema of the 1990-2010s is almost exclusively analyzed in the context of the problems of identity, memory and historical authenticity. The aim of the paper is to deepen such an analysis by exploring cinematic features of the German ostalgie cinema and to locate it in (or out?) the multifaceted landscape of contemporary nostalgic cinema.

The case study of Martin Persiel’s This Ain’t California (2012) reveals that the film does not simply use nostalgia in its narrative in order to romanticize the past and idealize history; it actively employs aesthetic and cinematographic means to comment on the notions of nostalgia, memory, and identity. More than that, the film represents the potential to reflect on the mechanisms of nostalgia and nostalgic cinema itself, showing at the same time how this nostalgic emotion can be manipulated.

Tatiana Astafeva is a Ph.D. student at the Film University Babelsberg Konrad Wolf in Potsdam and a member of a scholarship program at ZeM – Brandenburgisches Zentrum für Medienwissenschaft. Her current research is focused on the various uses and cinematic peculiarities of Ostalgie in the German cinema of the 1990-2010s. She received her Bachelor degree in philosophy and Master degree in history from National Research University – Higher School of Economics in Moscow, Russia.